.Encampment Resident Wins Legal Fight Against Sausalito

Score one for the cats and underdogs. A homeless man, acting as his own attorney in federal court, won a temporary restraining order against the City of Sausalito and high-ranking public officials earlier this month, saving his two kitties from the misery of staying in a tiny cage.

The cat fight began after Phil Deschamps, 35, built a small structure for his pets behind his tent at the city-sanctioned homeless encampment located on the Marinship tennis courts. 

Deschamps said the area was “dead space” between his tent and a fence, and gave his cats, Early and Cat, a bit more room. The structure also housed the litter box and solar panels to charge his phone.

On Valentine’s Day, Lt. Stacie Gregory, of the Sausalito police department, showed no love for the felines and threatened to tear down the structure, according to documents filed by Deschamps in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Deschamps filed his complaint and request for the temporary restraining order the following day, which eventually led to a hearing on March 11.

The City of Sausalito, mayor, police chief, Gregory, et al. were represented by attorney Kathryn Kafka of the international law firm Sheppard Mullin.

The fur flew as Deschamps and Kafka made their arguments to Judge Edward Chen. Deschamps said that Gregory tore down his structure and gave him a small cage for the two cats, forcing them to lie in their own feces. The city took Deschamps’ litter box, cat carrier and a generator, Deschamps said. 

In addition, Gregory now wants to remove his new tent because it’s not a city-issued tent.

Kafka said that Deschamps’ structure concealed stored items, and everyone must use the city-issued tents to ensure “the tennis courts remain safe, well managed and fair.”

Deschamps said the cats clawed their way out of the city’s tent, which resulted in the necessity to replace it with one of better quality. Since then, Deschamps has repeatedly reconfigured his area to try to appease Gregory, although he maintains his space is no larger than other campsites in the tennis courts.

Chen heard them out and didn’t take long to decide the cats and tent can stay, at least temporarily, and the city needs to provide a charging station for the campers. The two parties were instructed to go to mediation, and if they don’t come to an agreement, the next hearing will take place on March 24.

“They took down Cat Corner,” Deschamps said in an interview. “I need my cats to be safe, and I’m fighting for something I believe in.”

Nikki Silverstein
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